The 2017 SEO Checklist you won't want to miss

THE 2017 SEO CHECKLIST

Check off items as you go along.
Note: Not all of these may apply to you!

 

mind-blown SEO Checklist

  1.  Have you set up Gmail filters for your new site, or setup a new email address? This isn’t necessary, but always makes things easier for me, click the SEO checklist off now.
  2.  Have you installed Google Analytics? This is not optional!
  3.  Have you installed Google Search Console? Again, not optional.
  4.  Have you installed Bing Webmaster Tools? Do this too.
  5.  Using WordPress? Have you installed Google Analytics by Yoast and Yoast SEO? These plugins will make your life 10x easier.
  6.  Have you checked Google’s Search Console for 404 / 500 errors, duplicate content, missing titles and other technical errors that Google has found? Make sure to keep up with any messages Google is sending you.
  7.  Have you used Browseo to find even more technical errors?  The most common detrimental errors people tend to make are 302 redirects that should be 301 redirects.
  8.  Have you used Screaming Frog to find broken links, errors, and crawl problems?
  9.  Have you used Google’s Keyword Planner? Be sure to consider searcher intent and difficulty, pick 1 keyword per page, and you’ll generally want to start with lower-volume keywords first.
  10.  Have you looked at competitor link profiles? This is the easiest way to get started with link building. This way, you can see what kind of anchor text they’re using, as well as how and where they’ve been getting their links. Something like the SEO ToolboxahrefsLink DiagnosisOpen Site Explorer, or Majestic.
  11.  Have you incorporated your primary keyword (or something close) into your page URL?
  12.  Are all of your title tags ~65 characters or less? Title tags over this will be truncated in results.
  13.  Are all of your meta description tags ~155 characters or less? Meta description tags over this will be truncated in results.
  14.  Have you used an H1 tag? Is your keyword in the tag? Is it before any (H2, H3, H4…) tags? Are you only using 1 H1?
  15.  Do you have a healthy amount of search engine-accessible text on your site? My recommendation is at least 100 words because you want to give search engines an opportunity to understand what the topic of your page is. You can still rank with less, and you don’t ever want to put unnecessary text on your site, but I recommend not creating a new page unless you have roughly ~100 words worth of content.
  16.  Did you use synonyms in your copy? Remember: synonyms are great, and using natural language that’s influenced by keyword research (rather than just pure keywords) is highly encouraged!
  17.  Do your images have descriptive ALT tags and filenames? Search engines “see” images by reading the ALT tag and looking at file names, among other factors. Try to be descriptive when you name your images. Don’t overdo it, though!
  18.  Are you linking to your internal pages in an SEO-friendly way? Are you describing the page you’re linking to in the anchor text, so that both users and search engines understand what it’s about? I recommend not using anchor text in your global navigation because it can look like over-optimization. Stick to in-content links instead.
  19.  Have you started off-page optimization and began building links? This is the hardest, most important aspect of SEO! Check out the ClickMinded Link Building Strategy Guide to get started.
  20.  Have you made sure your site isn’t creating any duplicate content? Utilize 301 redirects, canonical tags or use Google Webmaster Tools to fix any duplicate content that might be indexing and penalizing your site.
  21.  Are you using absolute URLs in your code? Some CMS platforms give you the option. Use absolute URLs instead of relative ones.
  22.  Have you checked your site speed with Google PageSpeed Tools?
  23.  Have you created an XML sitemap and submitted it to Google and Bing Webmaster Tools? Use XML-Sitemaps.com or the Google XML Sitemaps WordPress Plugin.
  24.  Have you created a Robots.txt file and submitted it in Google and Bing Webmaster Tools?
  25.  Have you claimed your business / website username on other major networks for reputation management reasons? Not only do you want to make sure no one else gets your account name, but you can often “own” all the results on the first page of a search for your brand if you’re a new website or company. Here is the URL structure of some of the major networks (I’ve avoided linking directly to sign up pages because they keep changing):
  • http://www.twitter.com/brand-name
  • http://www.facebook.com/brand-name
  • http://www.yelp.com/biz/brand-name
  • http://www.youtube.com/user/brand-name
  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/brand-name
  • http://brand-name.wordpress.com/
  • http://brand-name.tumblr.com/
  • http://pinterest.com/brand-name/
  • http://www.hulu.com/profiles/brand-name
  • http://technorati.com/people/brand-name
  • http://about.me/brand-name
  • http://brand-name.posterous.com/
  • http://profile.typepad.com/brand-name
  • http://www.squidoo.com/lensmasters/brand-name
  • http://www.stumbleupon.com/stumbler/brand-name
  • http://www.etsy.com/people/brand-name
  • http://en.gravatar.com/brand-name
  • http://www.scribd.com/brand-name
  • http://brand-name.livejournal.com/
  • http://brand-name.hubpages.com/
  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/brand-name/
  • http://photobucket.com/user/brand-name/profile/
  1.  Is your site mobile friendly? Have you checked it on multiple browsers with BrowserStack?
  2.  Have you set up social media accounts onFacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Google+?
  3.  Have you added Authorship Markup to your site? Authorship markup search snippet images are gone, but you may still want to add it to your site. Use theAuthorship Markup Walkthrough.
  4.  Have you used an SEO Audit Tool to double-check everything once you’re live?
  5.  Have you reviewed all of the free SEO tools at your disposal before completing this audit? If you don’t understand some of the high-level concepts, review the Beginner’s Guide to SEO.

checkout the full list here


8 Reasons to Hire a Graphic Designer in 2017 | UK

Overview

Unfortunately, many business owners fail to understand the positive impact that hiring a graphic designer can have. Looking to cut costs they may well think that they can use stock images, graphs and charts from Microsoft Excel, and a free logo online creator and everything will work out the same. However, this is certainly not the case and this commonly held view is mostly down to a lack of knowledge about what a graphic designer does.

WHAT IS A GRAPHIC DESIGNER?

A graphic designer is a professional who creates and assembles images, typography, or motion graphics with a view to improving the aesthetic appeal of your business. They can make your brand stand out in a crowded market, make it appear more professional, and open your product or services up to entirely new audiences.

 

Graphic designers are often mistakenly thought of as artists and many business owners wonder what an artist could possibly add to their operations. But the purpose of a graphic designer is completely different to that of an artist. Where a fine artist creates work that is left up to the viewer to interpret, a graphic designer’s work should require no explanation.

Graphic designers are the best communicators in the world, and if people are interpreting their message in a way that is not intended, the graphic designer is not doing their job properly.

WHAT CAN A GRAPHIC DESIGNER DO FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

To better explain the benefits of hiring a graphic designer, we’ve gathered eight of the most significant ways in which a graphic designer can improve your business.

1. Prepare your business for the future

A picture says a thousand words, well, maybe not. According to Japanese studies into information processing it’s closer to 80 words, but a picture certainly has the power to communicate a complex message faster than a paragraph ever can. This is going to be a crucial tactic for businesses to capture audiences in the near future.

With decreasing attention spans in young audiences, marketing messages need to be delivered as quickly as possible and images are still the best way to do this. With small screen mobile technology becoming more prevalent than the larger screens of desktops and laptops, modern audiences aren’t as willing to invest time in reading your message. Images are what the future of communication is about. A perfect example of this being the symbol-based language of’emoji’  becoming the fastest growing language in the UK earlier this year.

As wearable technology (iWatches, virtual reality headsets, etc.) begin to jump out of technology blogs into the real world, screens are only getting smaller and smaller. Having a graphic designer on hand who can not only create visuals that will be effective at these miniature sizes, but also has the knowledge to adapt your digital marketing to different screen sizes will be crucial to success as technology changes.

Google’s recent efforts in improving image searches are bound to continue to separate the wheat from the chaff for users searching for high quality, relevant images online. A graphic designer can help ensure that your images, infographics, and videos are among the wheat.

2. Give your brand a boost

Not every business needs to stand out to succeed. A locksmith in a small community, for example, will gain enough trade from being the sole proponent of a vital service. For businesses with more competition, however, high quality branding is vital.

A brand is how your customers perceive you. It is made up from every customer facing element of your business – the way you answer the phones, your customer service policy, your company name, the tone of your copywriting, and – most importantly – how your brand looks.

Your company logo, the layout of your website and marketing materials, your chosen font, and the colours you use will give most customers their initial impression of what your company is like. It is what gives your company character. A professional graphic designer is able to expertly manipulate these elements to ensure that every customer perceives you in the right way.

A strong brand is memorable. It builds trust and encourages positive referrals from customers. A weak brand is instantly forgettable.

3. Save you time

If you’re busy running a business you simply don’t have the time to make a good job of your own graphic design. Good design is not something you stumble upon. It’s a combination of skills that require a specialist education and a lot of practice. It will take you years of dedication to master the software needed to complete all your graphic design work to a professional level.

The Adobe suite, flash animations, video editing – most modern graphic designers will come with all these skills intact, ready to use them to your advantage. This will free you up to focus on other pressing tasks for which you do have the skills.

4. Ensure that your message is consistent

 

channel 4 logo graphic designer

From the Channel 4 style guide

An inconsistent message makes you appear slapdash and unprofessional. If you have several different logos appearing in different sizes across your internal and external communications, all of which use different fonts and layouts, your company’s message is going to come across as confused as your design is. A inconsistent design makes the customer think that you provide an inconsistent service and that is not a good way to inspire trust among your audience.

A graphic designer can create a design style guide which can help you deliver a consistent message right across your brand. A style guide is of crucial importance if you’re planning on expanding your brand to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Different designers will be variously meticulous about the attention to detail they expect, but all will be guaranteed to have the ability to ensure that your visual branding is consistent. They’ll also be more than happy to let you know when it’s not.

5. Provide expertise

 

Which file types work in the best situations? Where’s the best place in the area to get business cards printed and how much do you need to spend to get decent quality? How do you make yourself look good in your photo ID picture?

There are many graphic design-related questions relevant to modern business which you can only really learn the answer to through experience. From their education, or if they’ve worked in the area as a graphic designer prior to the appointment, a professional will have the experience to answer all these questions and more.

Most modern graphic designers are also adept at editing photos, and usually pretty good at taking photographs too. They will be able to make your staff profile images on the company site look like a collection of bright-eyed professionals in an upmarket office, rather than sleep-deprived lunatics working in a cave. A graphic designer will also be able to use their photographic skills to capture the company’s key moments in time – a useful method to give your company the human touch on your website and on social media.

6.  Improve returns on digital marketing

Images not only improve but have been shown to be a vital part of a company’s marketing mix. For marketing campaigns, quality graphics have proven time and time again to be one of the (if not the) most important factors to their success. This is particularly true of content marketing as illustrated by the statistics below:

  • Blog articles posted with images get 94% more views than articles without images
  • 63% of online shoppers consider the quality of the product image to be more important than the product information and 53% consider them more important than ratings and reviews
  • 70% of marketers plan to increase their use of unique visual marketing in 2015

With these statistics backing them up, it’s apparent that a graphic designer is an important player in every successful digital marketing set-up.

7. Solve problems creatively

Modern businesses can never have too many creative thinkers, which is good because graphic designers have creative problem solving skills in abundance. Throughout a graphic design education students are bombarded with problem after problem and are encouraged to experiment to find their own unique visual solutions.

As a result, a graphic designer can help with your business decisions unrelated to their immediate area of expertise by showing you how to look at it from a different angle. If you’re at the beginning stages of a new project, think about involving your creative team members and see how differently they can approach a solution and how helpful this can be to the development of the project.

8. Inspire pride in your employees

If all of your internal communications, operations folders, website, and business cards are amateur and shabby they won’t inspire much pride in your employees. If they are created and polished by a professional graphic designer, however, your employees will acquire a whole different perspective of the company they are working for.

Good design inspires people. While it’s a bit more obvious that well designed external communications can attract new customers, internal communications are often overlooked. By creating a new website and polishing up internal communication materials your employees will consider themselves to be working for a cutting edge company. They might even become more likely to put in extra effort in helping the business succeed.

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

With so much to offer your business it would be foolish not to find a graphic designer and get them involved in the mix at the next opportunity. As communication becomes increasingly visual and graphic design becomes increasingly critical to success online, you’ll need to act fast if you don’t want to be left behind.


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Useful Resources for freelancers in the UK

USEFUL RESOURCES FOR FREELANCERS IN UK

The following is a list of online resources for freelancers that will be helpful in setting up your freelance business; from how to find freelance work to keeping yourself productive:

FINDING WORK

Upwork – A great service linking clients to freelancers.

Hiive – Network with fellow creative professionals and potential employers and keep up-to-date with any new opportunities.

Onsite – For the more technically minded designer, Onsite is a great place to meet quality clients.

Elevate – Run by recruitment specialists, Elevate is doing a great job in promoting the skills of freelancers to the appropriate markets.

PeoplePerHour – PeoplePerHour is a place for prospective clients to search for the perfect person to solve their problems.

Freelancers.net – A great job board for a variety of freelance opportunities from around the UK.

YunoJuno – Sign up to YunoJuno and get access to a number of well-paid jobs from a variety of high-profile clients.

Aquent – Based in the US but with a lot of remote positions on offer, Aquent is a place to search for digital creative jobs.

TaskRabbit – TaskRabbit is a decent job site to keep you ticking over, but don’t expect to earn in excess of £20 an hour.

Fiverr – Again, as the name may suggest, don’t expect Fiverr to make you rich, but it is a good place to find a variety of interesting short-term projects.

Guru – Guru tends to be a place for big projects, so if you’re up for a long-term project, you should take a look.

GETTING ADVICE AND PROTECTING YOUR BUSINESS

Freelance Advisor – Freelance Advisor is a useful service for getting a good insight into freelancing in the UK and discovering more about how to become a freelancer.

IPSE – Join the EU-based Association of Independent Professionals And the Self-Employed if you want help protecting your business.

FCSA – The FCSA works to protect a flexible work force in the UK and ensures all members are adhering to the legal requirements of running a business.

Chartered Society of Designers – The authority on professional design practice, the CSD is a great organisation to join if you’re a designer of any kind.

D&AD – A highly respected international body representing the interests of anyone working in the creative industries.

ACID – Copyright is often a complex issue for modern creatives and Anti Copying in Design (ACID) can help if you run into trouble.

The Association of Photographers – With over 40 years’ experience, the AOP defend the interests of their members and maintains the reputation of the photography industry.

British Institute of Professional Photography – The BIPP is an internationally recognised photography organisation that aims to train, qualify, and support professional photographers.

The British Institute of Interior Design – The BIID is a highly respected organisation representing the interests of interior designers internationally.

The Society of British Interior Designers – SBID represents the interests of interior designers, manufacturers, and educators in the interior design industry across the UK.

The Association of Illustrators – The AOI is a membership body that represents illustrators in the UK and campaigns for their rights.


PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND PRODUCTIVITY

MindMeister – Mind mapping application that’ll help you think through your projects with the option to turn your mind maps into presentations at the touch of a button.

FreedCamp –  Create shared to-do lists to keep on top of tasks. It’s a great free for all version of Basecamp.

Evernote – Evernote is a fantastic resource for staying organised across all your devices. As your freelance business grows, you can upgrade to the plus and premium versions.

Oh, Don’t Forget – Schedule messages to be sent to your phone to make sure you don’t forget important deadlines.

Remember the Milk – Remember the Milk is a simple but powerful task management app which integrates with Gmail and Siri.

TeuxDeux – The minimalist design makes TeuxDeux a popular to-do app. They’ve really stripped it back to the basics.

Strict Workflow – Strict Workflow is a plugin for Chrome that enforces the ‘Pomodoro Technique’ – blocking distracting websites for 25 minutes then giving you a 5 minute break.

Toggl – Toggl is a simple to use tool that tracks your time. Check out this updated review and blog post from The Freelance Effect

RescueTime – Rescue Time is another time tracking tool that gives you a great insight into your daily habits.

1Password –  Relieve the password headaches by using 1Password to keep them all in one place.

Dashlane – Dashlane is another popular tool for keeping all your passwords in one place and across all devices.

ZenWriter – As a creative freelancer, you don’t want to spend all day bashing away at the keyboard, so get it all done as fast as you can with a distraction free writing tool.

FollowUp – Staying on top of your emails is a crucial way to impress clients. Schedule emails in advance to make sure you never forget to follow up on a project.

The Email Game – The email game turns replying to emails into a game. Reply before the timer runs out and clear your inbox quickly or you lose precious points.

Sane Box – Sane Box uses a clever algorithm to determine the importance of each email and moves those deemed ‘unimportant’ into a separate folder.


COLLABORATION

Trello – Trello is a great tool for collaboration that allows you to organise all your projects into boards. At a glance, you can see what’s being done and what needs to be done.

Basecamp – Basecamp is the tool of choice for professionals who need to keep in touch on a project. It ensures everyone working on the project is up-to-date on what’s been done and what there is left to do.

Bidsketch – Bidsketch speeds up the time you take making proposals for projects and submits them to clients with a well-designed collection of templates.

DropBox – Sync all your devices to DropBox and store all current project files there to ensure you always have access to everything you need. DropBox also makes it really easy to share large files with clients.

Docstoc – If paperwork is not your thing, head to Docstoc where you’ll find templates for every business document you’ll ever need. There’s also a fantastic collection of resources to help you improve your business skills.

Clarify – It’s always surprising how many times you’ll need to take screenshots when working remotely. Clarify makes this simple allowing you to take screen recordings as well.

SnapEngage – SnapEngage is a live chat app that’s perfect if you get tired of the cumbersome emails. Keep up with your clients or collaborators in real time.

Hively – Hively makes it easy for customers to give you feedback. This is not only great for attracting new customers with testimonials but also a great way to ensure you give your best on every job.

Join Me – Join Me allows you to share your screen with clients easily, even if they’re not signed up.


FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT

FreeAgent – Free agent is a fantastic service for keeping track of everything and anything to do with your finances. With their support team of accountants on hand and the ability to submit your VAT, RTI, and Self Assessment directly to HMRC, you’ll be able to focus more on getting on with your creative work.

Freshbooks – Freshbooks helps you to keep track of billing. Calculating rates and hours can turn into a heated email battle with some clients. Cut out the confusion by letting Freshbooks work it all out for you.

Shoeboxed – Shoeboxed makes scanning and organising receipts, business cards, expense reports, and any other paperwork you need to keep track of a lot easier.

Mint – Mint is a simple free tool for keeping track of cash flow, budgets and bills. Not as in-depth as many but great if you want to keep it simple.

Braintree – Braintree from PayPal aims to integrate payment systems on the internet to make paying for things a lot easier.


freestack

Free Resources and Tools for Designers

FreeStack

In the past 3 weeks, i laid down my mouse and pencils to create a website called FreeStack which in short is a collection of every free website, Free Resources, quote, advice and tutorial that has helped me get to an alright designer.

I decided to showcase all these links in a simple collection to make it easy for anyone to refer back to, get inspiration or simply browse for ways to make the design process easier. I'm lazy, I'll be honest, but being lazy has gotten me to find some of the most useful tools and resources I use on a daily basis to make life simpler, save time and most of all save dollar.

I see a lot of colleagues, friends and classmates helping others out by offering free icons or textures and photos that they've designed or taken and I love the fact they're giving back, giving a little something so the designers of the future to kickstart their career. I don't particularly have the patience to offer such means so this is my lazy handbook to designers, an online Bible if you were that anyone can use, share and submit to keep it present.

FreeStack is essentially a collection based site for top Free Resources, Tools, Advice, Mockups, Fonts, Stock Photography, Inspiration and techniques on how to better your Graphic Design skills and it's my gift to you.

Another Effing Free Resources Website!

I know what you're thinking... Another effing Stack, Collection/Free Resources site. I'm not going to sit here and tell you it's any different but we do pride ourselves on being just for Designers & Creatives with content and quality in mind.

Along with Resources to help with productivity and the standard chrome extensions that claim to change your life ( some do ) We've focussed more on aspects designers might be find useful like Help with Public Speaking, CV and Interview Tips, God-Like Designers to follow and ways to invoice and get paid your worth along with many more personal aspects that Freelance Designers will find helpful.
Shoutout to @Chipmunktheme for the Awesome theme and to everyone at PH who could make this Hunt possible today.

If we can just help or improve the work ethics, techniques or even mindset of just a handful of designers, then we've done what we've set out to do.

Stay Classy,

Freestack Free Resources